St Leger: Kingston Hill gets green light for Doncaster start

The final Classic of the season takes place tomorrow

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The Independent Online

The Kingston Hill saga concluded satisfactorily today with trainer Roger Varian confirming the participation of the St Leger favourite following an upbeat ground bulletin from rider Andrea Atzeni, despite Doncaster’s decision not to water ahead of tomorrow’s final Classic of the season.

Varian is irritated that his valid concern about the ground has been overblown into a confrontational standoff. It was never like that. Clerk of the course Roderick Duncan, whose brief is first and foremost to produce safe ground, has made it clear throughout that no pressure has been put on him to artificially alter the going.

If connections are happy enough with underfoot conditions, then maybe we should be, too, and look nowhere else for the winner. He is, after all, the best horse in the race on form, the only one to give Australia anything to think about in the Derby. Varian has never lost an ounce of faith in the grey, assuring us all after a second ground-related withdrawal at York last month: “Don’t worry, his day will come.”

There is, though, a nagging suspicion that this will not be it. Snow Sky has the credentials to be a viable alternative, but it might be better to have an each-way saver on one of the outsiders, perhaps Now Forever, bidding to provide John Gosden with his fifth St Leger winner and third in the past five years.

William Buick has chosen to partner Gosden’s Derby third, Romsdal, which is quite understandable, but is by no means certain he is on the right one. Now Forever has quite a bit to find on form, but he is a lightly-raced, tough, progressive colt who doesn’t need to improve much more to get into the shake-up and I quite fancy him to be  at least placed at odds of around 16-1.

If he can win, what a fillip that would be for Frankie Dettori, veteran of five St Leger victories, so soon after losing out on Treve, favourite to win her second Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe next month. The trademark flying dismount could be of record height.

Talking of ups and downs, George Baker, flying high in his best-ever season and now firmly established among the weighing room’s elite, came down to earth with a bump when unseated from the swerving Cotai Glory just three strides from the post with the race at his mercy in the most dramatic of finishes to the Flying Childers Stakes today.

Baker was unhurt, though understandably upset, while Cotai Glory’s transgression allowed the fast-finishing Beacon in for victory. “As he was hanging right, my saddle moved slightly around and that was it, I came off,” explained Baker.

The Queen’s Estimate won her first race of a mixed season when toughing it out under Ryan Moore to repel all challenges in the Doncaster Cup.

Australia is the star on the first day of Ireland’s fabulous “Champions Weekend” at Leopardstown, a new initiative featuring ten Group races, five of them Group Ones. The Derby winner faces a seemingly straightforward task in the Irish Champion Stakes against rivals he has already beaten easily.

For information regarding the QIPCO British Champions Series visit